A Legal Entity is an entity that is known by and recognized to exist in a jurisdiction. For legal jurisdictions, this usually means that the entity is registered. Legal jurisdictions usually have a registration for its citizens, foreigners, enterprises, fellonies, etc. Non-legal jurisdictions (e.g. a soccer club) register their members, donators, staff, properties, etc., either on the record, or off the record.
The Jurisdictions pattern provides an overview of how this concept fits in with related concepts.
It is important to recognize that the term 'legal entity' does not refer to something that has an existence of its own, but that it is a property of en entity that is linked to a jurisdiction. This enables us to query for the applicable jurisdiction when someone uses the term, and get the right understanding of what (s)he means.
- citizens (organizations, etc.) that are registered in the citizens registration of some government, are legal entities in its jurisdiction.
- a refugee that is screaming before a civil servant person (i.e. (s)he is alive and kicking, and really exists), yet is not registered in the governmental administration, does not exist for that administration, i.e. is not a legal entity in that jurisdiction.
- whether or not some special stone qualifies as legal entity depends on whether or not it is known to exist in some jurisdiction.
A legal entity does not necessarily have an existence outside of its jurisdiction. For example, the rules of many legal jurisdictions specify criteria for entities to have their own legal rights and obligations - being a 'legal person' albeit not a human being (which is then called a 'natural person'). A 'limited liability partnership' or an 'incorporated entity' are examples of such constructs (for specific jurisdictions). See e.g. Separate Legal Entities